Music Educator, Composer, Pianist, Writer

Mark Christopher Brandt











WARMUP     MAY 1, 1994


Here are some things I was pondering after I completed my Structure and Freedom DVD.


We often believe that structure and discipline translate to abuse and oppression. Too often we decide that freedom comes from rebellion, anarchy, and chaos. In the arts, as in Christianity, nothing could be further from the truth.


While it is true to say that there can be no freedom without structure, the structures and disciplines which we choose to place upon ourselves for a greater good bear more fruit and bring more freedom than those imposed upon us by the world and what it would have us believe.


If we are in competition with ourselves, then we will not waste our short time on earth seeking empty validation from those around us - even those who actually look to us to succeed. The true artist, like the true Christian, has something beautiful to share.


Every true artist knows that there can be no freedom without structure.  Every artist struggles within the daily structures and disciplines of his or her art form, hoping to attain even a modest glimpse of the freedom that awaits those who can outlast their fears, complaints, and excuses.  In a moment of surrender there are wings and then there is flight.  Soaring lasts as long as the artist does not analyze, judge, or even notice that he or she is doing the impossible.


If music has to be a certain genre, then you are not free.  Neither true music nor true musicians are bound by genre or type.  Labels come from non-artists.  Music comes from musicians.  If music must be chaotic and borderless to display freedom, then it is simply abstract and unapproachable.  Art is meant to uplift souls.  Art points to the Divine or it is just mere human expression available to all and expressed by all.


Validation of what one has accomplished - in all its fleeting forms - is not in itself proof of freedom.  The proof is found in the movement of the artist outside of the boundaries in which non-artists live daily.  The artist cannot be both artist and non-artist.  That is the death of interior freedom.  The artist must be otherworldly, and he or she must be so without apology.


If you are looking for validation, then you will never be a great improviser, composer, or music educator. An artist does not seek validation.  If you ache for attention you will never be a great musician.  If however, you are longing to share the unique and beautiful music flowing within you, then you are already at the top of your game.  Keep on practicing to improve your delivery.


Mark Christopher Brandt

May 3, 2019


Joie de Vivre (Joy of Life)

The Prophet

I never know just how I want to spend the day with you

I know I never want to spend a day in life without you

Being with you makes me free

Your heart is where I want to be

The Joy of Life is in giving


When I was lonely all I thought about was being loved

But you have taught me joy comes from giving and not receiving

Sharing with you makes me free

My heart is where you’ll always be

The Joy of Life is when I live in your love


I take the risk and I

dive in

your love

the place I

choose to live

in freedom

and not in fear


A day will come when we will separate to pass from this life

And one will grieve while one moves on to see eternal beauty

I know if first I stay behind

My heart will echo with my mind

The Joy of Life is love eternal


I’ve always known that true love comes to those who wait with patience

A pearl of value far beyond the dust of endless ages

Being with you makes me free

Your heart is where I want to be

The Joy of Life is in your love


Sharing with you makes me free

My heart is where you’ll always be

The Joy of Life is in your love

©2015 All rights reserved.  Heart of the Lion Publishing Co/BMI

You don’t know the answer to the reason why and

Anyway what’s the question

I have often wondered why the path you chose

Has taken you this direction


Well no one seems to find the way and

We just waste another day away

Watch the clock and don’t waste time cause

When you should have started was today


Walk through walls but empty halls will wait

When you’re not qualified to teach it

The path you chose was sought through mind and now you’re left

With what’s behind to preach it.


You thought you might have found a way

Today tomorrow now the hour is gone

You looked for truth and found yourself

And now your days they seem so very long


Time will pass and world’s will end and there you’ll be

A soaking mess to view it

It never seems to be your fault

Responsibility comes from the pulpit


Well you were one who knew the way and gambled it

For what you’d rather do

You kept your mind and sold your soul and now we have to

Wait for someone new


It's not too late!

It's not too late!

It's not too late!

It's not too late!


Watch the clock and don't waste time

When you should have started was today

It's not too late

More time

Don't waste time

It's not too late

Don't waste time

Divine Mercy

It's not too late

©2016 All rights reserved.  Heart of the Lion Publishing Co/BMI


"Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid"

― Albert Einstein


"Freedom does not consist in doing what we want, but rather in doing what we ought."

― Pope Saint John Paul II


"A person should hear a little music, read a little poetry and see a fine picture every day in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul. "

― Goethe


“If you don't live it, it won't come out your horn.”

― Charlie Parker


“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

― Mark Twain


"Hatred is the coward's revenge for being intimidated."

― George Bernard Shaw


“Slow and steady wins the race."

― Aesop



Compiled from verified, reliable sources, multiple articles and interviews.


Mark Christopher Brandt (born February 2, 1961) is an American composer, pianist, bandleader and writer.  HIs middle name Christopher comes from the Greek name, Christophoros which means “bearing Christ.”  It is derived from Christos combined with phero and translates literally as “Christ bearer,” or “one who carries Christ.”  Since December 25, 1991  Mark has been an unapologetic follower of Jesus Christ and His teachings, as found in the Catholic Church.  He considers the use of his middle name crucial to both his public and private life.


Mark has operated a successful private instruction studio, built solely on word-of-mouth advertising, since 1991.  In 2011, he received the Virginia Governor's School Award for exemplary service and dedication to education.  Many of Mark's students have achieved high honors and scholarships at both the high school and the collegiate level. Many have successful careers in the music industry as performers, educators, producers, and engineers.


Mark’s first musical performance was during his sixth grade year at an assembly for his elementary school.  At the request of his music teacher, Mark performed an original composition, Heartbeat, and there discovered his desire to share what was occurring within him musically.  Like all accomplished composers and instrumentalists, Mark honed his skills performing as a side man and an accompanist for many years.


Since his first professional performance in 1977, Mark has shared the bandstand with a variety of artists, from the famous to the obscure, in performances on television, in theaters, large and small venues of every kind and in in every genre of music.   Mark’s experience as a composer spans classical to country and includes a Rap and Hip Hop piece he was commissioned to create for the Ramada Renaissance Hotel’s “We’re Somebody Special” Corporate Ad Campaign that took place in the early 1990’s.


Before graduating high school in 1979, Mark was already an experienced performer and had appeared at some of the major venues in the Washington D.C., Northern Virginia, Maryland area, including the Main Stage at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia. The United States Navy Band Commodores sent a recruiter to Mark but he respectfully declined their   offer hoping for a deeper artistic freedom than a career in the military would ultimately provide him with.


Mark studied classical composition and piano performance at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. (1979-1982), and jazz composition at Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts (1983-1984).  While attending Catholic University, Mark was actively performing with many of the East Coast’s most reputable musicians in almost every jazz club that was open for business.  The group with which Mark regularly performed opened for several nationally recognized groups, including Tim Eyermann and the East Coast Offering, and Maynard Ferguson’s Big Band.


While attending Berklee College of Music in Boston, (Upon arriving in 1984 Mark tested out of their entire undergrad harmony and theory programs), Mark’s talents were noticed by the faculty, who invited him to sessions with them as well as sessions with other students who, like Mark would go on to achieve successful careers in music.  Upon completing his education at Berklee Mark left the Boston area, settling in central Florida.


While playing in Florida, Mark became a member of a prominent group playing Top 40’s hits and country music.  As the group grew in popularity (1985), the opportunity to sign with a label in Nashville appeared.  Mark passed on the offer, remaining focused on his personal dream of being a composer and a performer of his own music, free from category and genre.  In an attempt to gain objectivity, Mark left that group and moved to Georgia, where he packed up his musical gear and worked odd jobs in order to gain a fresh view of his artistic options. It was during this time that he met his future wife Ramonie.  They were married in April of 1989.


When Mark’s long-time friend Geoff Thaler (woodwinds) discovered that Mark was not attached to a group, he invited him to come back to the Northern Virginia area, which Mark did in December of 1986.  The two immediately began working together professionally and started to collaborate in the realization of their life-long dream of playing and recording their own music.  In March 1987, they debuted compositions from both their portfolios at Blues Alley, Washington D.C., in a fusion/funk group, Syncron.  Shortly after this performance, Mark and Geoff replaced their rhythm section with two phenomenal musicians (Dallas Smith, electric bass and Stan McMullen, drums) who would work with them for the next eight years.


By 1991, Mark again became known as one of the top jazz musicians in the tri-state area and was starting to gain national attention.  Hoping to breach the fear of launching himself as an artist under his own name, Mark released a recording of his jazz trio (Warmup 1994) for limited circulation.  The hint of success it brought was all he needed to move forward with his own music.  By 1995, Mark’s first recording of originals - a duo project with longtime friend and woodwind master Geoff Thaler - was completed and titled Veritas.  This became the catalyst for two more projects and multiple performances with Geoff.


As well-known jazz labels, and national artists began to take notice of Mark and his music, he began studying his options and learning more about the music business.  Mark ultimately decided to start his own independent record label and produce, release, promote and sell his recordings under that banner.  Before the Internet became the glut of music that has been since the late 90’s, Mark’s music was selling all over the globe.  To this day he is still selling his music online under his own label, Lionheart Music East, with sixteen projects to his name.


After his 1999/2000 New Year’s performance at the Cosmos Club in Washington D.C., Mark decided to step away from performing so that he could be close to his wife and to his children during their young years.  During this break, he built one of the most reputable teaching studios on the East Coast, regularly placing students with scholarships into the top music colleges and universities in America.


In these first few years of the new millennium, Mark was asked to lead the Holy Rosary at his home parish of All Saints in Manassas, Virginia on Saturday mornings.   He has been leading the Rosary in his parish every Saturday morning since he was first asked to do so, and in 2016 his Rosary meditations were approved by the Catholic Diocese of Arlington and published in a book titled A Year of Favor.  This book was followed with a book of Mark’s meditations on the Stations of the Cross, also published with ecclesiastical approval, titled His Footsteps Your Calvary.


From 2008 until 2014, Mark was a sponsor for the annual Chantilly High School Invitational Jazz Festival. The festival, which for over 35 years took place at Chantilly High School in Virginia, was, at the time of Mark’s arrival and his departure as sponsor, the largest of its kind on the East Coast.  Mark remains at the top of the list as the “go to” instructor for piano, composition and improvisation lessons for all instruments. His students include many of the Washington, D.C. area's professional musicians, seeking him out for polish and refinement of their improvisational skills.


In 2008, Mark returned to the world of performing with a new jazz trio, and began to use his middle name, Christopher, professionally, wishing to be known, not just as an artist, but as an artist who carries Christ.  After the release of Worth The Wait (2010), Mark and bassist Shaun Jurek became the East Coast Duo, moving successfully into the club, hotel, and private party circuit that Mark trafficked as a young jazz pianist in the late 70’s and early 80’s, and again in the late 90’s before his 2000 hiatus.  Adding a drummer for a second trio CD, this one of Christmas classics, December Moment (2014) received a glowing review from Downbeat Magazine.  Mark and Shaun began to fill the calendar year with performance after performance, becoming one of the most respected and most working jazz groups on the East Coast.  The duo remained active until the spring of 2020 when the pandemic caused the two musicians to amiably disband.


While collaborating with multiple artists and performing with the East Coast Duo, Mark released a double CD of piano solos, This Side of Forever (2012), and two completely Improvised solo piano recordings, Seven Moons (2015) and Seven Gifts (2016), which feature the music he created on the spot with cameras rolling in his educational DVD series on improvisation.


Between 2013 and 2016, Mark collaborated with well-known guitarist Dan Leonard in a group they called No Explanations.  Together, they produced three CD’s and a documentary DVD: Round Trip, The Making of an Artist, which has premiered in film festivals all over the world and been translated into both Italian and Polish.


In 2017, Mark began composing music for flutist Yana Nikol, and cellist Katherine Colburn in a programatic collaboration titled The Nightingale (2018).  Mark and Yana followed up The Nightingale a year later with both a duo CD, Sunflowers and Roses, and a DVD, Structure and FreedomStructure and Freedom is the third DVD in Mark’s series on Improvisation.  The collaboration between Mark and Katherine Colburn continued into 2019 with the release of The Butterfly, which also featured the Manassas String Quartet of which Colburn is a founding member.


In February of 2021 Mark suspended his performance career so that he could devote more time to composing.  He is still accepting music students privately through word of mouth referrals.


“We get one life. It’s up to us to find our purpose. It is our duty to find the reason for our existence, and to bring joy and light to those around us who have not yet discovered theirs.”  Mark Christopher Brandt

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